Worship God Or Save Souls?

The Highest Purpose Of The Church

What is the highest purpose of the Church? Let me break it down for you— “Soteriology” is “the study of the doctrine of salvation in Jesus Christ”; and, “Doxology” is “the study of the doctrine of worship and praise.” The debate is over which is the highest purpose of the Church:  the salvation of souls; or, the worship, praise, and glory of God? Let me answer that question with another question— the question that Jesus was asked by one of the Pharisees, “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?” And, Jesus responded:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command.  The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” Matthew 22:36-39.

Nothing Higher Than Worshiping God

NOTHING is to be placed above our love, loyalty & worship of God! NOTHING! Now, for those of you fearful that I’m kicking evangelism and disciple-making to the curb, your fear is unfounded! Here’s why— because we simply cannot worship God with all our heart, soul, and mind without actively discipling the lost because that is the Commission Jesus has given the Church! And, “If you love me,” Jesus said, “You will keep my commandments.” So, the argument is not whether we disciple the lost or not! We have no option— if we love & worship God we will evangelize and disciple the lost!

It’s Really About Priorities

The debate is really about “priorities”— if we give higher preference to winning the lost than we do to love, loyalty, and the worship of God, we’re guilty of IDOLATRY! We’ve become “man-centered” rather than “God-centered.” If God Himself placed the salvation of souls above the worship of God, He would be guilty of IDOLATRY! When the worship of God is revived in the hearts of His people, God sends a “revival” to His Church! And, out of that revival, His Church becomes obedient to Jesus’ Great Commission to “Go…and make disciples of all nations. Matthew 28:18-20. God revives the hearts of His people when we worship Him with humble, repentant hearts; and, when we stand in awe of HIS beauty & great worth! John, the baptizer, had it right:  “He (Jesus) must increase & I must decrease” John 3:30.  The word “vive” means “to be alive”; so, “revive” means “to make alive again.”  Like the doctor who “revives” a clinically dead patient, God “revives” the believer who has flat-lined spiritually! And when He does, obedient disciple-making will follow.

The Holy Spirit Does The Resuscitating

Has your walk with the Lord become dormant or stagnant? Have you been lazy about your faith? Has it trickled down to your attitude toward the lost? When was the last time you gave testimony of your faith? When was the last time you were in a disciple-making relationship with someone? Have you ever discipled someone? Pray for personal revival— when God “revives” you, you’ll be engaged, once again, in worshipping Him; and, loving the lost that Jesus came to save! God is so good to start over with us! Let Him make your heart sensitive and broken once again! Let Him remove the leanness that has overrun your soul! Let Him make you painfully aware of your sin! And, then, pray that God would give you a heart for the lost! Pray that He will help you to see them the same way that He does! Pray for His help to see when He’s opened the door to a spiritual conversation! And pray for boldness to share the Gospel with them!

How Important Should Politics Be?

-The Reaping & Sowing Principle

In my last post I talked about the Church’s well-intended; but, disastrous decision, to exchange Jesus’ commission to “make disciples” in the hope that their political clout— as a “Moral Majority”— could change our country, for the better, by electing the right individuals to office & through legislation.  Five decades later, we’ve discovered the accuracy of God’s word in Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” It’s the reaping & sowing principle!

-A Biblical Theology Of Politics

The Church has severely shrunk in size; and, for the most part, the strategy of the “Moral Majority” of the 1970s and 80s, has failed to elect God-Honoring public servants or pass God-Honoring legislation. However, let us NOT get back on the pendulum; and, swing it to the other extreme, making government & politics of no importance! That’s reactionary, and it’s not a Biblically acceptable response either! What we need is a Biblical Theology of the “Christian & Politics.” Our Theology; and our Doctrine always have to begin with God! He’s the starting place for everything.

-Government Was God’s Idea

The earth is the LORD’S and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” Psalm 24:1.  “For the earth is the Lord’s, and everything that is in it” 1 Cor. 10:26.  Government was God’s idea! He created it—  “Submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God…the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves” Rom 13:1,2.  The principle in Scripture is that God is Sovereign over human governments; and, uses them to advance His ultimate plans (Prov. 21:1;  Dan. 2:21; 2 Chron. 20:6).  At the same time, God blesses the nation that chooses Him (Psa. 9:17; 33:12; Isa. 60:12; Prov. 14:34).  There’s an element of man’s free will involved.

-Personal Responsibility Required

He’s made us a free moral agent; and so, people often get the government they’ve “chosen.” There seems to be some personal responsibility required; especially, if we have the freedom to choose our public officials as we do here in the United States of America. If we’re given the opportunity to choose good governments that exalt God, that’s what we’re called to do! Paul told Timothy to pray for good governments— “…for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity that provide a peaceful atmosphere for us to do the Lord’s work…” (1 Tim. 2:1,2).

-Balancing The Tension

In Philippians 3:20, Paul puts government & politics in its proper perspective—“But our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Peter says to “…conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your temporary residence here” 1 Pet. 1:17. It’s ultimately a matter of “identity.” I must view my identity as a “citizen of heaven” and a “temporary resident” of this world and my home country!  The moment I lose sight of that I’ve made my nation an “idol”! As one whose identity is “in Christ”, my goal must always be to pursue Christ as the prize! At the same time, we’ve been blessed with the privilege and responsibility to vote! And we must vote our conscience, based on our understanding of Scripture! But, then we leave it there! We leave the results in the hands of our Sovereign God! No anger or rudeness toward leaders that God has installed for His eternal purpose! Now we pray for those leaders!

Politics Is Like A Skunk

-The “Moral Majority” Years

That’s what a pastor friend of mine told me once:  “Politics is like a skunk: Touch it and that’s all anyone will notice about you for a long while.” Now that another election has come to an end, I thought it might do us well to talk a little bit about politics. When I was in my 20’s and 30’s I was very much involved in the political scene. I was part of the “Moral Majority” back in the ‘70s and listened religiously to political talk shows during the ‘80s and ‘90s. 

-Perspective Is A Great Thing

But, “perspective” is a great thing! It’s the only great thing about growing older! Perspective is “the ability to see all the relevant data in a meaningful relationship to one another.” Over the last 20+ years, I’ve gained a different perspective on the Church’s level of involvement in politics during the “Moral Majority” years. From my perspective, the Church exchanged Christ’s commission to “make disciples” for the hope that their political clout (because of their “majority” status) could change our country, for the better, by electing the right individuals to office who would see to it that God-Honoring legislation would be passed. 

-We’ve Reaped What We Sowed

Almost 5 decades later, we’ve “reaped what we sowed.” Because we backed away from our calling to “make disciples” the Church has severely shrunk in size. Some of the most recent statistics I’ve seen reveal that 9 out of every 10 churches in America are in decline.  And, only 1 new church is starting for every 2-3 that are closing! We’re no longer a “moral majority”! So, we’ve— for the most part— failed to elect God-Honoring public servants; and, we’ve failed in the battle to pass God-Honoring legislation. We’ve lost the “Culture Wars”! We’ve paid a great price for our disobedience, Church! And, I’m pointing fingers at this guy at the same time I’m calling out the rest of the Church! I’ve been disobedient to my calling! There, I said it! Will you admit it?

-God Is Still Sovereign

But, wait! This is not a message of hopelessness! All is not lost! God is still Sovereign! He’s still on the throne! He still listens & is moved by the repentant prayers of His Children! He continues to raise up “modern day prophets” who call the Church back to God; to brokenness & humility; to return to our calling; to fulfill our Lord’s Great Commission to “make disciples” as we “go” about doing life! We must remember that that is our calling! Jesus did not commission the church to “go” and make a “Christian nation.” Our core theology & doctrinal beliefs must be based on Scripture! We can’t make stuff up just because it would help us feel better or safer!

-Know What You’re Responsible For

Like most of you, I’m sick to death of all the negative campaign advertising! Glad it’s over for another couple of years! It would be really easy, for me, to just walk away from the political process altogether! I’d have no problem finding something else to do on election day & I’m sure many of you feel the same way. But, we can’t! Based on Scriptural principle, there is simply no way that I can—in good conscience—recommend that you stop voting. Just because politics is less important doesn’t mean that it’s not important! There’s tension there! It’s all about being a good & faithful steward! We need to know what we’re responsible for! As citizens, of this nation, we’ve been given the responsibility & privilege to vote! And vote our conscience, based on our understanding of Scripture, we must! But, then we leave it there! We leave the results in the hands of the Sovereign God! No anger or rudeness! Now we pray for our leaders!

The Creator Of All Things!

-The World Created Through Him!

What the Apostle John says about Jesus, in the opening verses of his Gospel, is astonishing! He says, of Jesus, that, “All things were created through Him, and apart from Him, not one thing was created that has been created” (v.3); and, then LOOK @ v.10 “He was in the world, and the world was created through Him.” Just let the weight of those words sink in for a moment! Jesus, whom John calls “the Word made flesh” in v.1, was the Creator of all things! The Apostle makes it clear that Jesus was NOT God’s 1st created being who then created everything else! No, he says, ALL THINGS were created through Him!

-Everything In The Category Of “Created”!

In other words, He created ALL THINGS; and, so that no one could misinterpret or misunderstand what he was saying, he clarified his statement:  “…apart from Him (apart from Jesus, the Word); apart from Him, not one thing was created that’s been created…” Everything in the category of “created” was created by Jesus! He was outside of everything created; and, other writers of Scripture confirm that. The Apostle Paul, inspired by God’s Holy Spirit, wrote: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For everything was created by Him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together. He is also the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him…” (Colossians 1:15-20).

-The Fullness Of God In Jesus!

The fullness of God was in Jesus, and everything was created by Him! Though the word “trinity” is nowhere found in the Bible, it’s a doctrine revealed in Scripture from the very first page. If you’ve never been shown this before, you’ll want to make some notes in your Bibles at Genesis, chapter 1, v.26. It reads, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…’” So, who is God talking to? Many Bible scholars see God, from the very beginning, to be a multiple person being; at the very least to be more than one person. And, it’s only as God reveals Himself in Scripture that we see that He is a Triune God; or the Trinity. Some suggest that even here, in the 1st chapter of Genesis, the Triune God can be seen working together in the act of Creation. Look at vs. 1-2, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” That would be God, the FATHER. “Now the earth was formless & empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths & the SPIRIT of GOD was hovering over the surface of the waters.” There’s God, the HOLY SPIRIT. And, v.3 “Then God SAID…” There’s the WORD of God; or Jesus as John calls Him.

-An Awesome God!

Our God is an Awesome God, amen? His greatness is magnified in Jesus because He concealed the glory of His fame in the form of an earthly frame! That’s what the Apostle John says next: “The Word became flesh and took up residence among us” (v.14).  We’re not forcing our views onto the text when we say that Jesus, the Word, became a man. We’re not forcing our views when we say that God became a man because John clearly states that “…the Word was God…”; and, “…the Word became flesh…” In the last part of v.14, John says, “…we observed His (Jesus’) glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” In other words, John is saying that Jesus shared the same glory as the Father; the glory that comes from being God! And, most Bible students believe John is referring to Jesus’ transfiguration recorded in Matthew’s Gospel (17:1-8). They observed His glory at that time; the glory He shared in the Godhead!

The Kingdom Of God!

-Where Trees Fall Up!

As crazy as it sounds, there is a place, in this world, where trees fall “up” when they’ve been cut. The place is in Para, Brazil where thousands of acres of rainforest were flooded with the building of a hydroelectric dam back in 1980. Underwater lumberjacks in submarines harvest trees as far down as 164 feet below the surface; and, they never have to worry about a tree falling on them after it’s been cut since they all fall “up” to the surface. This happens because it’s a place that operates under a different set of laws.

-A Kingdom By A Different Set Of Laws!

From the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, He offered His followers an opportunity to enter the Kingdom of God— a kingdom that operates by a different set of laws! As He unpacked & defined God’s Kingdom over His 3 1/2 year ministry, Jesus was careful to set it apart from the kingdoms of this world. God’s kingdom was nothing like this world’s kingdoms! Even as He stood trial, before Rome, He explained to a somewhat confused Pontius Pilate: “’My kingdom is not of this world,’ said Jesus. ‘If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. As it is, My kingdom does not have its origin here’” John 18:36. The principles, of God’s Kingdom, defy the laws of this world.

-What Is Greatness In God’s Kingdom?

In God’s Kingdom what was once up is down; and, what was once down is up. Greatness in God’s Kingdom is completely different from greatness in the kingdoms of this world; and, you will be unable to grasp a significant portion of Jesus’ teaching if you don’t understand the doctrine of God’s Kingdom! I don’t think I’m overstating my case one bit to say that the Kingdom of God is perhaps the main overriding theme in the entire Bible; and, if you dissect the content of all of Jesus’ words, in the 4 Gospels, it is the main message Jesus preached! Depending on your Bible translation, mention of God’s Kingdom is found some 147 times in the New Testament; and, 86 of those are in the 4 Gospels.

-The Substance Of God’s Kingdom!

The substance of God’s Kingdom is the people of God living in God’s place under the authority of God! That is foundational to a doctrinally sound understanding of what God’s kingdom looks like. From eternity past, God purposed to create a people for Himself. And, God’s Kingdom pattern began inside the Garden of Eden where God walked in perfect relationship with Adam & Eve. You can see all God’s Kingdom elements there— the people of God were living in God’s place under the authority of God! But, sin effectively murdered the entire human race in Adam; and, the pattern of God’s Kingdom was broken because of sin. Then, God reestablishes the pattern of His Kingdom through Israel.

-A Christian Nation?

God removes Israel from Egypt, at the Exodus; and, relocates them in the land of promise. Again, we see God’s Kingdom elements— the people of God living in God’s place under the authority of God! It was an utterly unique relationship! It was a Theocracy where God ruled! Never before or never since has there been such a relationship between God and a nation of this world. That’s something we must always keep in mind as we make comparisons to our own country. We are not; nor, have we ever been a “Christian nation” in that sense. We are NOT Israel! Only one nation, Israel, has ever had a “land contract” with God! We are not a Theocracy where God rules through His anointed prophets and kings. Nor has the church replaced Israel! God still has plans for Israel that He intends to finish. Israel remains prominent in Bible Prophecy! And, we also know, from Scripture, that Jesus will ultimately be the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom pattern!  Amen!

Skeptical Of God’s Love?

-How Does God Answer Skepticism?

The Old Testament book of Malachi opens with an interaction between God and the nation of Israel. “‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord. But you ask: ‘How have You loved us?’” (1:2). Israel had become skeptical of God’s love for them! They had allowed life’s circumstances to jade their thoughts about God’s love for them. So, how does God answer their skepticism? “‘Wasn’t Esau Jacob’s brother?’ This is the Lord’s declaration. ‘Even so, I loved Jacob, but I hated Esau.’” What does that mean? How is that an answer to their question about God’s love for them? Well, let me try and walk you through it.

-God Loves With Free, Sovereign, Unconditional Love!

Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Yes! The answer was yes! Though Israel descended from Jacob, every Israelite knew that Esau was Jacob’s twin brother born to Isaac & Rebecca. They also knew that Esau was the older brother; which meant, according to the customs of the time, that he should have gained all the rights & privileges as the main heir of the father’s blessings. So, what is the point? He answers their skepticism, about His love for them, by reminding them that He could have just as easily chosen Esau instead of Jacob; because they were twins & Esau was, in fact, the older brother! But, God chose Jacob and passed over Esau! Are you tracking with me so far? Because here’s the hard part; God answers their skepticism by telling Israel that He loved them with free, sovereign, unconditional love!

-The Difficult Doctrine Of God’s Election!

It was “free” because God’s love cannot be earned! It was “sovereign” because God is in absolute control of all the world’s affairs! And, it was “unconditional” because Israel didn’t have to perform under certain conditions to receive it! If you’re at all like me, you’ve found the Biblical doctrine of God’s election to be one of the most difficult doctrines to receive. Why? Because it doesn’t seem “fair” does it? We’re all about “fairness”; aren’t we? This is such a hard doctrine that I’ve known many preachers try and explain it away; or, to just avoid it altogether! But, what about “free will” we want to ask! Didn’t Jacob have free will to choose or reject God? Yes! But, didn’t God choose Jacob & reject Esau? Yes! But, doesn’t that seem like a contradiction? Yes! It seems like one! But, it’s not!

-The Difference Between A Contradiction & Tension!

Because we know there are no contradictions in God’s word! There’s a tension here; as there are many tensions in the Scriptures, aren’t there? And, there’s a big difference between a “contradiction” and a “tension.” There can be tension between 2 truths! We can’t avoid preaching the 2 truths just because they create tension! If both are taught in Scripture; then, both must be preached! Does Scripture teach the “free will” of man? Yes, Romans 10:13; Acts 2:21; and, Revelation 22:17, among other Scriptures, all convey that anyone desiring to be saved can be saved!

-Living With Tension In Scripture?

At the same time, Jesus says, “NO ONE can come to Me unless the Father draws him…”; and, He says, “You did not choose Me, I chose you…” (John 6:44; 15:16). And, 1 John says, “We love Him because He loved us first” (4:19). So, which is it; “free will” or God’s “election”? Yes is the answer! Did Jacob choose God; or, did God choose Jacob? Yes is the answer! Do we have “free will”; or, does God “elect” us into His family? The answer is YES! Somehow God’s sovereignty covers my free will in a way that only God can make it happen! I choose Him because He chose me! I’ve learned to live with the tension; and, I’ve learned to love it! I’m okay with not figuring it out! I’ve memorized Proverbs 25:2 just to remind myself on these occasions:  “It is the glory of God to CONCEAL a matter…” I believe that says it’s to God’s glory that we can’t figure it out! He’s so much bigger than our intellectual abilities! Don’t become skeptical of Him!

God Is Sovereign Over Viruses!

-This Should Comfort Us!

The doctrine of God’s Sovereignty is one of the most important principles to be found in all of Scripture! When we speak of His Sovereignty, we mean that nothing, in the universe, happens without God’s permission. That includes viruses like the COVID-19 that is currently wreaking havoc on our world! He has the power, the knowledge & the presence to prevent anything He chooses to prevent! So, at the very least, everything that happens in the world & in our lives is “allowed” by Him.

-God Is Never Surprised!

It’s because of God’s Sovereign control, that I like to say that He’s never surprised by anything! We’ll never find God wringing His hands over something that happens to us; or, anxious about how He’s going to be able to fix it! This Bible doctrine will absolutely change your life once it gets past your head & infiltrates your heart! You’ll learn to trust God with everything! That’s really the test! If you don’t trust God, with everything— including the “coronavirus”— then you don’t “get” His Sovereignty! Or, you don’t TRUST Him!

-Confidence In God’s Sovereignty!

Bible characters, like Joseph & Moses, got it! And, they proved it by living their lives, by faith, in God’s Sovereign control, regardless of the circumstances of their lives.  If you’re struggling, with anxiety & fear, over this coronavirus crisis, you may need to turn to some of these Bible passages & highlight them! For Joseph, who found himself in prison through no fault of his own, he expresses confidence, in God’s Sovereign control, over his dreams:  “Don’t interpretations (of dreams) belong to God?” he asked (Genesis 40:8).  When Pharaoh pulls him, out of prison, because he had heard that Joseph could interpret dreams,  he answered Pharaoh,  “I am not able to interpret dreams. It is God who will give Pharaoh an answer” Genesis 41:16.  Later, in verse 25, he tells Pharaoh, “…God has revealed to Pharaoh what He is about to do.” He was about to bring a world-wide famine!

-Sovereign Over Affliction & Trouble!

So, God is Sovereign over weather patterns! And, no one can stop “…what He is about to do…” because He is Sovereign! And, I love what Joseph named his 2nd son:  “…he named him Ephraim, meaning, ‘God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction…” Genesis 41:52.  We could preach an entire series on that verse! He trusted God’s Sovereign control over all the “affliction” & trouble in his life! And, God made Him fruitful in spite of it! It wasn’t his circumstances that defined him; but, his faith! Go back over Joseph’s life & re-read it, looking for his submission to God’s Sovereign control!

-Moses & Sovereign God!

God also reveals His Sovereignty to Moses. In Exodus 3:19, God tells Moses, “I know that Pharaoh will not allow you to go unless he is forced by a strong hand.” In His Sovereignty, God knows all things; even, the future! God also tells Moses that He is even Sovereign over all human, physical disabilities: “Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Who made the human mouth? Who makes him mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, Yahweh?” Exodus 4:11. Later, in v.21, after Pharaoh initially hardened his heart against God, God tells Moses, “I WILL HARDEN his heart so that he won’t let the people go.” When evil men set their will against God, He will use them to accomplish His Sovereign purposes! God does it for His glory (Romans 9:17).

There’s Freedom In God’s Sovereignty!

-Trust Him With Your Pain!

I’ve used my last few posts to take a deeper look at the prayer life of Hannah, from the book of 1 Samuel, chapter 1.  We’ve considered how God used her God-honoring prayers to heal her of her brokenness. She learned to pray with a view toward God’s Sovereignty over every painful situation in life.  I can’t overemphasize how important that was to Hannah’s spiritual formation. Until you can pray —about EVERYTHING— with a view toward God’s Sovereignty; and, with an acceptance —of your PAINFUL circumstances— even when you don’t have the answer to your “WHY” questions, you’ll be susceptible to a bitter heart! You’ll be in danger of turning yourself into God’s judge!

-Motivated By God’s Glory!

Until you can pray with a motivation for God’s glory alone, you’re pain & suffering will eat you up! Let me share, with you, a Facebook post that one of our members shared after hearing this message in church:  “The sovereignty of God is the pillow I lay my head upon. I have finally come to that conclusion; thus, I can sleep at night. God is in control and I can TRUST His decisions for this journey my family and I are on, now. He WILL get us through, and even if things don’t go as planned, if we are TRULY his, one day things will get better, if not in this lifetime, in Heaven… I finally GET God’s SOVEREIGNTY! I GET it,” Can you hear the “freedom” expressed in that statement?

-Trust His Character!

When you finally grasp God’s Sovereignty it’s a doctrine that offers great freedom! In part, because of God’s Character! He reveals Himself, in Scripture, as loving, gracious, merciful and benevolent toward us! Furthermore, He is just and righteous in ALL His ways! We can trust Him! We can trust that His Sovereign entry into the corners of our lives will always, ultimately be for our good & for His Glory! But, you must accept these revelations, of Himself, by faith! Then, let Him be God! Hannah experienced the freedom, of God’s Sovereignty, over all her circumstances. And, because she was motivated to see God glorified —through her circumstances— she could just leave it all in God’s more-than-capable Hands! 1 Samuel 1:18 says, “…Then Hannah went on her way; she ate and no longer looked despondent.”

-Truth Changes Us!

That line was the greatest indicator that she had left her painful circumstances in God’s Hands! Remember, back in v.7, that Hannah had grown so despondent that she wouldn’t eat. Her husband became concerned, “Why won’t you eat?” But, when she submitted to God’s Sovereign plan, “…she ate and no longer looked despondent.” Truth changes us when we believe it! Previously, in her anguish, she had been misread as drunk by Eli, the priest—”…no,” she said, “I am a woman with a broken heart… I’ve been pouring out my heart before the Lord…” v.15,16. Praying, through her pain, had been messy for Hannah. Until the Holy Spirit wrestled with her and calmed her troubled heart. One more lesson, about prayer, from Hannah! She offered praise when God answered! Take a good look at her words in the next chapter, vs. 1-10.

 

The Glory Due His Name!

-But We Are Self-Focused!

Why do “resolutions” at the start of a new year rarely work? I recently did a GOOGLE search for “New Year’s Resolutions” and came up with 18,600,000 hits in 0.54 seconds. There are more than 18 million articles, blogs, posts, sites, and news stories dedicated to the subject of New Year Resolutions! What does that mean? Well, I’d say, among other things, it means that people are always longing for change! They’re looking for strategies and formulas to help them eat less, exercise more, quit smoking…yada, yada, yada! Can I make an observation? Full disclosure here—I am NOT against “New Years Resolutions”! I am not against “Self Improvement”! But, I’ve come to believe that the reason “New Years Resolutions” and other methods for “Self Improvement” aren’t very successful is because they’re all “SELF” focused!

-We Need A Savior!

And, as a Bible believer and disciple, of Jesus Christ, I agree with the doctrine of man’s fallenness! I see the depravity and brokenness in my own life! I’ve learned I can’t trust my fallen nature; so, I’m not surprised by my inability to keep promises & resolutions to myself! I need help! I need a Savior! Here’s what I’ve seen in my life and the lives of countless others through the years—when I quit focusing on myself; and, I focus my heart, my thoughts & my energy on Jesus Christ, CHANGE begins to happen! Personal change happens when I quit being all absorbed in myself & look at Jesus over and over again—MEDITATE on Him! MEMORIZE His words!

-Preoccupied With God!

For change to take place, our greatest preoccupation must be with God & His Glory! We exist for His Glory! So, if we don’t live our lives for His Glory we miss our purpose; or, our very reason for existence! We live a wasted life! I don’t like the sound of that; and, I’m sure you don’t either! Preaching on the doctrine of “God’s Glory” is difficult because it’s as deep as God’s character, which is eternal, inexhaustible and indefinable! It’s also difficult because it’s easily misunderstood—“Why is God so concerned about His Glory? He must be some kind of GLORY HOG!” And, then, it’s difficult to understand the part we play in bringing God glory! All of which means that we don’t really know how to define it adequately, do we?

-A Working Definition Of “Glory”!

Let me try and illustrate “glory” for you. While stopping at a store, in Hollywood, Christian music artist, LeCrae, pulled a very ordinary, plain, cotton T-shirt off a rack to check it’s price. Thinking it had to be mismarked, he pulled another one only to find the same price on the tag. Incredulous, he approached the sales clerk to question the exorbitant price of $640. He was told that was the “special” sales price! When he asked what could possibly make it so special, the clerk said, “It’s the designer’s name on it that adds value to it.” Get the illustration? The reason God alone deserves all glory is because He’s the DESIGNER of everything! His NAME is on everything! And, it’s His Name that adds value to it! So, when we speak about God’s Glory we define it as “the ESSENCE & BEAUTY of His Spirit”; or, the beauty of His Character!

 

How Do You Measure Spiritual Growth?

-Measuring Physical Growth Is Easy!

Measuring “physical” growth is relatively easy, isn’t it? And, we begin measuring physical growth from birth, don’t’ we? How long is the baby, in terms of inches; and, how much does baby weigh? Right? That’s always one of the first questions asked! And, the measuring continues as baby grows into a toddler; and, then elementary age. Many homes have a measuring wall; or, a doorway, with all kinds of little pencil marks & words alongside it with a child’s name & age representing how tall they were at that specific age. Do you have such a place? Measuring physical growth is also a pretty exact science too, isn’t it? This is your “HEIGHT”; this, is your “WEIGHT”! This is your “inseam”, your “waist”; and, your “neck size.”

-Measuring Spiritual Growth!

But, measuring “SPIRITUAL” growth isn’t as easy, is it? It’s our tendency to measure others “SPIRITUALLY”  by how much they know about the Bible, doctrine, and, theology. So, if someone’s level of Bible knowledge is how we judge their level of spirituality, than it follows that we think of “SPIRITUAL GROWTH” as adding more “KNOWLEDGE”—more Bible reading; more Bible studies; and, more Church activities! And, yet, it’s curious that the Apostle Paul taught the Church of Corinth that, “…knowledge puffs up…” (1 Cor. 8:1); or, it INFLATES us with PRIDE! Who hasn’t met the arrogant “know-it-all” that keeps reminding you how much they know about the Bible? They beam proudly when others brag about their Bible knowledge. Paul is saying that—in their case—knowledge isn’t a measure of how spiritual they are; but, how CARNAL & FLESHLY they are! Knowledge is their IDOL!

-Bible Knowledge & Spirituality!

Now, please understand that I’m not ragging on anyone who has a growing knowledge of God’s Word! On the contrary, Scripture demands that we read it; memorize it; and, meditate on it! In fact, it’s impossible to grow spiritually apart from a steady diet of God’s Word. I’m simply saying that Bible knowledge is NOT an accurate measuring tool for spirituality! So, if it’s not more Bible knowledge; than, what is it that grows us spiritually? I like to say that spiritual growth happens as you become more like Jesus; & less like you! How does that happen?

-It’s Not By Osmosis!

How do we become more like Jesus? Well, it doesn’t happen by some process of osmosis! Rather, it happens by our “SANCTIFICATION” Scripture says! At the moment of our salvation—when we exercise faith in Christ’s atoning work on the cross—God “JUSTIFIES” us! That means He pardons us from sin’s penalty—death! And, from that point forward, we are destined for “GLORIFICATION”—that day when we’ll finally be set free from the very presence of sin; and, we’ll be “like Jesus.” And, “SANCTIFICATION” is everything that God is doing in your life, in that time in between, our SANCTIFICATION & our GLORIFICATION! If you’re a follower of Jesus, you’ve been set FREE from the “power” of sin! Your spirit long’s to be rid of sin; while, your broken, totally depraved flesh continues to lust after it! It’s in that tension where God works in us!